The Attitude Issue - Short Story
The office space was tiny and the only windows were opening to the central plaza of the building so there was no fresh air. Kate felt even more entrapped than usual. Her boss, Marissa, was in extremely foul mood today.
There were only four of them at any time - Kate and her manager Chris were sitting next to each other while Marissa, the company owner, and one of the other guys were sitting opposite them.
Matt, the server side programmer, joined them today as it was Monday, the only day he was coming to the office. On other days he was working from home and his place was occupied by cheerful and happy Marissa's boyfriend. But there was no sign of Andy today as he went for one of his wild trips and nobody knew when he would be back. It was probably adding to Marissa's frustration as she was one who liked to have power and she couldn’t always control Andy.
The atmosphere in the office was really tense and everyone was nervous. The hidden conflict between Kate and Marissa become more visible and everyone had a feeling that something was going to happen any minute. They were in the middle of their morning meeting and Marissa just started to assign tasks for next release. They were a small developing company and they had only one flagship product so it was crucial to have frequent releases with lots of new features added.
'Kate' Marissa started ' I want you to pick up the piece of work related to customisation of avatars and following in the groups'. Their flagship application was taking a social route and they were adding functionality to allow people to choose their avatars and see themselves in 3D representation of the world.
Kate looked at the description of tasks and one thing caught her attention. 'I haven't estimated those tasks' she said. 'It doesn’t matter' Marissa answered, 'I want you to do them'. 'Then I need to estimate them again as I cannot commit to the timelines here' Kate stated. 'It's estimated already so you will work according to this schedule' Marissa said firmly. 'But they are totally unrealistic' Kate started to argue.
She knew they were estimated by Leo. They worked together on a client side but he wasn't here as he was working remotely from Thailand. They had this idea of best and worst case scenarios and Leo consistently failed to achieve his worst case estimates even though he was working long hours. Kate talked to him about it many times and at one point she just realised that he knew they were completely unreasonable but he was too scared to add more time to the tasks. As a result his best case scenario was impossible to achieve while worst case was only possible if everything was going flawlessly and without interruptions. It was never the case and Kate hated working long hours. Marissa expected that from them but never rewarded them for it so Kate felt being exploited.
And she had different approach to her timelines. She was analysing the task to such extent she could really tell how much it should take and that was her best case scenario, while the worst case had some time added for unpredicted delays. The less she understood requirements for the tasks, the more she added to a worst case. Still she was long enough with this company to know the code back and forth so she was usually finishing her work around her estimated best.
Marissa was annoyed with that and kept saying that Kate's timelines are too relaxed because as the result Kate was usually finishing her part a month before Leo. Kate thought it's actually not her problem that Marissa cannot predict the fact that Leo is always late and she wasn't prepared to give unrealistic timelines only to make Marissa's happy. She was very responsible person and never missed her deadline, it was part of her nature and she thought till now it was her asset as a developer, not her weakness.
And this was exactly what Marissa wanted her to do now, commit to a timeline that was unrealistic which meant that even if Kate worked very long hours, what she didn't intent to do, but even if – she would definitely miss this deadline. She didn't want to be in such a situation as it would add even more frustration to her already stressful life. Besides she didn't think she owned the company her spare time, she had a personal life.
Marissa was a workaholic and she knew about it. Still she believed it was her asset and that others should put at least similar effort to make the company thrive, she was paying them for that wasn't she! And she was really disappointed with Kate, she was a great developer but she could do so much more if she wasn't that lazy.
Well she had to admit that she had different opinion about Kate when she joined the team. Very quickly she outperformed Leo and the code she created was of much better quality according to Chris, who was very fond of a new girl. But then, few months ago she saw Kate browsing the internet during working hours and that was something that changed her mind.
Kate explained to her that she has to find a new place to live and that she also was staying a little longer to cover the time she has spent on searching, but Marissa started to wonder if it was the first time or maybe the girl was doing this all the time. If so, she could do even more code if she wasn’t that lazy and didn't spent time on browsing.
'So do you refuse to do your work then?' she asked Kate with a warning in her voice. 'No, I just say I cannot agree with the required timelines.' answered Kate in a trembling voice. The atmosphere was so tense that nobody dared to breathe too loudly. What would come next would shape the future of the company quite strongly.
Chris knew where it was all heading and he knew it was wrong. He knew that Kate is the best developer they ever had and if Marissa was more professional and looked at what is best for the company she would clearly see it. But she was now in a very touchy emotional state as an employee openly disobeyed her. He knew that if nothing will change, she will fire Kate.
'Marissa, can we talk for a minute but in a different office.' he said with determination in his voice and walked to the doors. Thankfully she followed.
When they left Kate couldn’t stop her tears. She knew things went too far. 'She will fire me, won't she' she wept and Matt looked at her reassuringly. He felt for the girl but he knew she was probably right. 'My stomach is in knots whenever I come to the office' he added suddenly. 'Really, why is that?' Kate asked a little surprised. 'The atmosphere is so tense that's hard to relax and she always finds something wrong in my work or an attitude' he said. Kate had no idea he felt like that and for some reason it helped her to compose herself. 'Well, if she will fire me then I'll just find another job' she told herself. She didn't like this confrontation, but she also knew that she will rather search for another job than give up her values and high standards she was proud of.
Sometimes later Chris returned and asked Kate to follow him to another office. She had heart in her mouth when they were walking this short distance as she didn’t really know what she should expect. They have entered a small conference room. Marissa was there looking at them. Kate was waiting for the harsh words she was certain to hear.
‘I’d like to apologize for my behaviour’ Marissa started. ‘I shouldn’t been pushing that much’ she added. Kate was in real shock. Was Marissa apologizing or did she just imagine that?! She looked at Chris totally puzzled. He nodded his head.
He spent last half an hour calming Marissa down and explaining to her that other people have different approach to work than she has. He couldn’t help it but he also told her how the nervous atmosphere she was creating was bad for others and how much it was affecting the performance. He used all his skills to make her start thinking again like a business owner and what would be the impact to the company if she fired Kate now. Marissa had to admit that even though she personally preferred Leo‘s loyalty, Kate was much more useful as an employee than he was and without her, they could close the company as well. It was a tough battle which he won but he would rather avoid the conflict altogether.
‘Chris just explained to me that you are the person that takes pride of meeting your deadlines and that you don’t treat them as just dates in calendar that can be easily moved’ Marissa continued. ‘He also said that the situation in the office was very stressful for everybody so if we want to continue to work than we need to end this conflict’ she finished and waited for Kate to say something. ‘I totally agree’ said Kate relieved. ‘I don’t mind doing those tasks, just I need to estimate them properly so we I can actually get them done’ she added.
‘Yes, that’s fine’ said Marissa. ‘I still would prefer if you didn’t browse during office hours as we have plenty to do’ she finally said. ‘If you need to search for the house to rent, please do it at the end of the day and stay a bit longer for that reason only’ she added. ‘I can do that’ said Kate agreeably ‘but as you know the compilation process is so slow that I often have 10 or 15 minutes long breaks and this was mainly the time I was using for browsing.’ It was partially true and seemed to calm down Marissa even more. That was all and they headed to their office.
Thanks to Chris’s intervention, they have managed to achieve a satisfying agreement on professional grounds and could continue to work together although on the personal level the women would never forgive each other – it went too far.